Baltimore Ravens pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil said all the right things Sunday, speaking positively of his time in Denver as well as the Broncos organization. But, make no mistake, the most motivated player wearing purple in Thursday night's season opener will be Dumervil.
It was six months ago when the Denver Broncos asked Dumervil to take a $4 million pay cut after he produced 11 sacks and six forced fumbles. And, after the infamous fax fiasco turned him into an accidental free agent, Dumervil chose to sign with the Ravens, who were offering just $500,000 more in terms of the payout in 2013.
Shortly after he signed with Baltimore, Dumervil said in late March, "I have a chip on my shoulder. I may have a brick wall now."
Dumervil didn't speak like someone who had a chip on his shoulder Sunday, but he acknowledged emotions will be stirred up when he returns to Mile High.
“The villain? The Broncos, man, I’m looking forward to it," Dumervil said. "It’s different. I’ve been in Denver for the first seven years of my career. Now going [from] there [to] the visiting locker room is definitely different, but I’m excited. Like I said before, I’m happy to be a Raven. The decision was on me, and I feel good about it.”
Dumervil, 29, is one of the key pieces to a new-look Ravens defense. Baltimore no longer has Ray Lewis and Ed Reed running the show. The Ravens watched their leader in sacks (Paul Kruger) and interceptions (Cary Williams) from last season's championship team sign elsewhere in free agency. They also cut last season's leader in tackles (Bernard Pollard).
While the Ravens lost many familiar faces, Dumervil brings something the Ravens have lacked over the years -- a Pro Bowl pass-rusher to line up opposite of Terrell Suggs. Over the past six seasons, Suggs has had one only teammate record more than seven sacks in a season. Dumervil has the most sacks over the past three seasons with 37.5, which is 11 more than anyone else in the league.
"In the spring, everybody was hitting the panic button on us because of the guys we lost," Suggs said. "Even though we were very sad to see those guys go, the show must go on. ‘In Ozzie (Newsome, general manager) we trust.’ He did a great job ‘reloading the gun,’ so to say.”
Dumervil has some great memories playing for the Broncos, recording 63.5 career sacks. But this offseason has been about the sack he didn't make.
“Yeah, I could’ve gotten the sack and I didn’t," Dumervil said. "Me personally, I feel like I could’ve rushed better, and it hurts every time I watch it, even being here [now]. So, it’s definitely something that as a player you want to make a difference. So me being a Raven now, I want to make sure I make a difference. You see what I’m saying?”
Dumervil said the great part about playing in the NFL is the opportunity to prove yourself.
"And whenever you have an opportunity to prove yourself, I think you should take full advantage of it," Dumervil said. "So, I’m looking forward to that.”
I believe Dumervil when he says he has no regrets in leaving Denver. But you have to wonder whether the intense Dumervil wants to make the Broncos regret not making a better attempt to keep him.